Will Surbaugh: Non Sibi Sed Patriae (not for self but country), indeed.Remember this name: Will Surbaugh. Someday you’ll want to be able to say you knew him way back when.
By: Tammy Francois, Lake County News Chronicle
Remember this name: Will Surbaugh. Someday you’ll want to be able to say you knew him way back when.
At the ripe old age of 11, Will is an entrepreneur. He has a business selling fire wood in Grand Marias where he lives with his parents, Kate and Steve, and two younger siblings.
He’s a student at Great Expectations School and enjoys drawing and painting, and he’s also a skier, who bought his own skis and lift ticket from the proceeds of his business, said his dad. Last week, to add to his resume, Will Surbaugh did something remarkable that will surely secure his place among athletes his age and identify him as a humanitarian, one of the goals he has set for himself. Here’s the story:
“When I was eight, I went to my cousin’s graduation from the Naval Academy and that’s when I first heard about the SEALs,” Will Surbaugh told the News-Chronicle
There, Will had an opportunity hear Eric Greitans, author, Rhodes Scholar and former SEAL, who spoke at the event. Greitans captured Will’s attention.
“After the graduation, he kept asking (about the SEALs),” said Steve Surbaugh, who, to answer his son’s questions, decided to buy a download copy of Greitans’ book, “The Heart and the Fist” He gave it to Will, who found the author’s accounts “thrilling.”
Part of the fascination for Will were Greitans’ descriptions of the intensive training undergone by the SEALS and particularly, said Steve, the grueling “BUDs training” — the months-long precursor to the actual SEALs training described as “ some of the most mentally challenging and physically demanding training in the world,” according to the Navy’s website. Will was determined to see what he could do.
“I started doing pushups, sit-ups, rope climbing, pull-ups, and carrying my brother around on my shoulders,” Will explained, hitting, as of early December, a personal best of more than 300 pushups.
Along the way, said Steve wife Kate helped Will make progress by encouraging him to set smaller challenges for himself, his dad said.
“It’s been an interesting process, Steve said of his son’s extraordinary determination. “I never expected this to be a part of parenting. He just enjoys this kind of thing.”
Will has since corresponded with and met Greitans, who Steve called a “mentor and inspiration” to his son. Will made first contact with the former SEAL and author through a letter and a $100 donation from the profits of his firewood business, to Greitans’ non-profit, The Mission Continues.
The Mission Continues offers six-month fellowships to post 9/11 veterans to encourage their involvement in nonprofits and humanitarian projects in their communities. According to the organization’s website, 71 percent of its fellows have gone on to further their education and 86 percent of have transferred their military skills to civilian employment.
So, a few months ago when it came time for the Will to set another challenge, Steve Surbaugh suggested that it should include a fundraiser. They decided that the moneys raised would be directed to The Mission Continues. The target figure was set at $10,000 — an amount the Surbaughs say will pay for a Mission Continues Fellowship for a Minnesota veteran.
“I think it’s important to help veterans. They have given so much already and we should give back to them,” Will said.
The physical challenge, as declared by Will would be equally lofty: 500 pushups. The Surbaughs consulted with a personal trainer, Greg Nichols of 61 Fitness, to ensure that Will could accomplish his goal without injury, secured pledges and planned the event for Dec. 19 at the North House Folk School.
“I’ll probably do more than 500,” Will said thoughtfully, “I guess I’ve been practicing and feel pretty confident that I can do them.”
And he did. Before a crowd of more than 100 people, he did 638.
“We’re super proud of him,” said Steve Surbaugh, speaking to the News-Chronicle the night after the event.
As for the fundraising, the event raised $3,000, which will be added to other sources they’ve raised, the total still shy of their $10,000 goal. If you’d like to help Will accomplish his fundraising goal, please make checks payable to: The Mission Continues
and send them to 617 Pike Lake Rd., Grand Marais, Minn. 55604